Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 12 > Issue 3

The Majority-Party Disadvantage: Revising Theories of Legislative Organization

James J. Feigenbaum, Boston University, USA, jamesf@bu.edu , Alexander Fouirnaies, University of Chicago, USA, fouirnaies@uchicago.edu , Andrew B. Hall, Stanford University, USA, andrewbhall@stanford.edu
Suggested Citation
James J. Feigenbaum, Alexander Fouirnaies and Andrew B. Hall (2017), "The Majority-Party Disadvantage: Revising Theories of Legislative Organization", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 12: No. 3, pp 269-300. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00015112

Publication Date: 24 Oct 2017
© 2017 J. J. Feigenbaum, A. Fouirnaies and A. B. Hall
Elections,  Legislatures
ElectionsLegislaturesRegression discontinuity


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In this article:
Theoretical Perspectives 
Aggregating Close Elections to Obtain Variation in Majority-Party Status 
Results: Majority-Party Disadvantage 
Revising Theories of Majoritarian Legislatures 


Dominant theories of legislative organization in the U.S. rest on the notion that the majority party arranges legislative matters to enhance its electoral fortunes. Yet, we find little evidence for a short-term electoral advantage for the majority party in U.S. state legislatures. Furthermore, there appears to be a pronounced downstream majority-party disadvantage. To establish these findings, we propose a technique for aggregating the results of close elections to obtain as-if random variation in majority-party status. We argue that the results from this approach are consistent with a phenomenon of inter-temporal balancing, which we link to other forms of partisan balancing in U.S. elections. The article thus necessitates revisions to our theories of legislative organization, offers new arguments for balancing theories, and lays out an empirical technique for studying the effects of majority-party status in legislative contexts.